By Patricia Fry
Having contributed hundreds of articles to numerous magazines, I’m often asked, “Where do you get your article ideas?” I say, “Look everywhere.” Here’s a guide to get you started:
Write About What You Know.
What skills do you have? What are your interests and hobbies? What insights have you gained over the years? Create article ideas from your own personal knowledge and talents. When I started my writing career, we were involved in horses as a family and, in fact, we subscribed to several horse-related magazines. I studied those magazines from cover to cover and fairly quickly came up with some article ideas. Consequently, I sold dozens of articles to a variety of these magazines. As an example, my first article featured various ways to use your horse show ribbons. I sold another one on creative and practical hairdos for horse shows. And I placed a humorous piece about being a horse show mother.
Write About Things You Want to Know.
A good way to learn about something is to write about it. I once wrote a piece on chain letters because I wanted to know more about the concept and whether or not it could work. In order to write an in depth article, you have to do the research, right? I’ve also written about growing African violets, the dangers in a hot summer day, the dynamics of a habit, and cat personalities – all because I wanted to learn more about these topics.
Share Your Experiences.
Each of us has unique experiences. Use yours to develop good articles. I’ve sold articles based on my experiences with caring for an aging horse, rescuing feral kittens, helping to build a safer neighborhood, grandparenting, and working at home, for example.
Relate the Experiences of Others.
Make money by tapping into the life adventures of family, friends, and acquaintances. Get their permission, of course. Most people love to see their names in print and are willing to be interviewed. I’ve sold stories about the perilous experience of a rider whose horse went over a cliff and lived, two diabetic brothers who are dedicating their lives to helping children who have diabetes, a woman who started an adopt-a-grave program to save a neglected cemetery and many articles profiling people in interesting or successful businesses.
Look Everywhere for Article Ideas.
I once met a handy-woman while waiting in line at the post office. This chance meeting resulted in a couple of published articles. My long distance grandparenting book came about while shopping at the grocery store. I overheard two women talking about how difficult it is to bond with grandchildren who live miles away. I’ve also found article ideas at my grandsons’ Little League games, at a Neighborhood Watch meeting, while traveling and during a family reunion.
Stop, Look and Listen.
Pay attention to the world around you. Notice what people are doing and listen to what they’re saying. Other people are excellent resources for a writer whether you write nonfiction or fiction. I heard a young mother complain recently that her family rarely sits down and shares a meal together. This prompted me to write a piece on how to bring the family back to the supper table. A friend told me one day that she had met a man online. So I wrote an article about computer dating. After sitting through a poorly executed presentation once, I wrote an article on effective public speaking.
Keep Up With the News.
Your newspaper is brimming with article ideas. Read it everyday from cover to cover. This is how I came up with the idea for an article on healing and therapeutic gardens and gardening. I also got the idea for a piece featuring workplace cats from the newspaper. And my 3500-word piece on innovative Phys-Ed programs came about after reading a short article on the growing trend toward obesity in children.
Use the Internet.
Open up to new topics that you come across while web surfing. I do a lot of Internet research and often discover potential article ideas while on my way to do something else. My piece on Internet recruiting developed from an unrelated Internet research project. My article on raising a better student came about after a chance Web site visit.
Write from the Heart.
What are you passionate about? How would you like to make a difference? I’ve written articles on teaching kids responsibility through horse ownership, youth mentoring, how America is helping our children and, of course, articles on being a more effective grandparent.
As you can see, coming up with article ideas is as easy as paying attention to the world around you. Oh, that gives me an idea for an article on how to sharpen your observation skills.
Patricia Fry is the author of “A Writer’s Guide to Magazine Articles.” (www.matilijapress.com)